Last Friday, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act into law. Also known as SB 818, the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act creates age-appropriate learning standards for public schools that decide to teach comprehensive personal health and safety education (grades K-5) and comprehensive sexual health education (grades 6-12).

This law expands the current requirement that sex education be medically accurate, developmentally and age appropriate to include instruction that is also culturally appropriate, inclusive, and trauma informed. This law removes language from previous law that stigmatized LGBTQ+ and pregnant and parenting students, so that all students are one step closer to feeling seen in their classroom and receiving the health and safety education they deserve.

YWCA is committed to moving the work of comprehensive, inclusive, culturally relevant sex education forward through offering community-based sex education, supporting school districts in implementing sex education curriculum, and championing state-wide advocacy efforts such as the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act. Expanding access to and improving the standards for sexual health education directly supports our mission and work to eliminate racism and empower women. Research shows that comprehensive sex education improves academic outcomes, helps prevent sexual violence, and reduces both STI transmission and adolescent pregnancy.1

In honor of the signing of this bill into law, our in-house sex educator, Hallie Cohen, is addressing some common misconceptions about sex education and the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act.